Belize is home to a great number of native flora and fauna living in its beaches and jungles, but perhaps the best way to get a comprehensive taste of Belize’s wildlife is at The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. Located 29 miles west of Belize City, the 29-acre zoo is home to more than 125 animals and 48 species, all native to the country. With its natural and unique layout, the animals’ homes in the zoos are kept as natural as possible, with dense, green vegetation to resemble their natural habitats as closely as possible. In 2009, the zoo was awarded the Belize Tourism Board’s “Education Award of the Year” for its excellent services.
The zoo is visited each year by thousands of local school children as well as tourists and visitors from around the world. It is a popular destination for visitors en route to other areas of Belize such as San Ignacio, as it is so close to the Belize City airport.
The zoo was founded in 1983 by a crew of filmmakers. They adventured to Belize to create the documentary, Selva Verde. When the film was finished, the crew was left with 17 now tame animals in need of a home, so a makeshift zoo was created. The original zoo contained a mishmash of animals including an ocelot, puma, jaguar, and exotic birds. After gaining local and foreign support, the zoo opened in its current spot in 1991.
The Belize Zoo’s mission is to educate visitors and bring them closer to the natural heritage of Belize in the form of its native wildlife. All of the zoo’s current residents were either donated to the zoo, previously injured animals brought in for rehabilitation, born at the zoo, or transferred from another zoo. No animals were ever captured from the wild.
A Taste of Belize’s Wildlife
There is a wide variety of over 170 types of animals at the zoo, all native to Belize, including (but not limited to:
Mammals – Baird’s tapir (Belize’s national animal), jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay, white-tailed deer, spider monkey, howler monkey, peccary, kinkajou.
Birds – scarlet macaw, jabiru, egret, stork, pelican, harpy eagle, king vulture, owls, collared aracari, toucans, parrots.
Reptiles – American crocodile, Morelet’s crocodile, boa constrictor, fer de lance, crotalus durissus, snakes.
The zoo is located at Mile 29 on the George Price/Western Highway. It is halfway between Belmopan and Belize City. From the cruise ship terminal in Belize City, is a 45-minute drive one way, and from the Belize City airport, it is about an hour’s drive away. For visitors traveling by car from Belize City airport or the water taxi en route to San Ignacio, Tikal, or Guatemala, the Belize Zoo is a convenient stop on the way inland.
Visit the Zoo
The Belize Zoo is open from 08:30 to 17:00 (5:00 pm). Last admission at 16:15 (4:15 pm). Entry to the zoo costs $15 USD for foreign adults and $5 USD for foreign children; $7 BZ for Belizean adults, and $2 BZ for Belizean children.